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Pancreatic Cancer Action Blog

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Our fresh new visual identity

We are pleased to share with you our new visual identity which we will begin using today, and over the coming weeks you will see the refreshed brand across our communications, merchandise and website.

PCA-LOGO-rgb

So how did this come about?  Last year, following our advertising campaign, Sparrowhill Studio got in touch with us.  They offered to give our brand a refresh as a pro-bono project.

 

We welcomed the idea and believe with a new updated identity, we can stand out more and potentially increase the opportunity to get our message out there.  Quite simply, the more people that find about us and pancreatic cancer, the more chance we have of getting more people diagnosed early.

 

After visiting the team and getting to know more about Pancreatic Cancer Action, they developed this modern refreshed logo.  We feel it reflects the voice and personality of our charity and our supporters, fundraisers and donors – energetic, passionate, dynamic and active!

 

The purple and pink trapezium design is based on an abstraction of the form of the pancreas. This gives it an inherent relevance to our charity and cause.  Coupled with the word “action” jumping out of the logo, it makes for a relevant evolution for the brand while retaining the essence of what it has been to date.

 

While our logo may have changed, our mission and work remains the same – raising awareness, educating the medical community, funding research into early diagnosis, influencing policymakers in the UK and Europe, and supplying information to support patients and families.

 

It will take time for the new brand to phase across everything.  Over the next couple of months, we will have a transitional phase, where our promotional items will be superseded with the new brand as an on-going implementation.  In the run up to the rebrand we have been running down our current stocks enabling us to introduce the new materials easily.

 

Pancreatic Cancer Action LogoFinally, the pansy will still be a big feature of Pancreatic Cancer Action.  It is a very important part of our history and it signifies how far we have come and the people who have made it possible, so we will continue to stock our pansy badges as well as offer our Pansy Tribute Fund as way for people to remember loved ones.

We do hope you like the new brand and we look forward to seeing the new logo and colours being used by our supporters.

 

If you have questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch

 

 

Pancreatic cancer adjournment debate on 15 January 2015

It’s been a while since the pancreatic cancer debate calling for more funding and awareness on 8th September 2014 so it’s good to see that pancreatic cancer is still being discussed in parliament.

“This is the beginning of the rest of the campaign” were the final words from Nik Dakin, MP for Scunthorpe, at the backbench debate in September.  Since then, Mr Dakin has kept to his word, by continuing to support his constituent Maggie Watts in raising the profile of pancreatic cancer in parliament.

On Thursday 15th January, Mr Dakin opened an adjournment debate on the future of medical support for pancreatic cancer sufferers.

Mr Dakin told his peers about the lack of progress in medical support for pancreatic cancer patients: “Thankfully, these days a majority of cancer patients survive for 10 years. Sadly, that is not the case for pancreatic cancer patients, of whom fewer than 1% survive 10 years. That is why future medical support for pancreatic cancer—greater awareness, early diagnosis, new treatments and faster access to treatments—is so important.”

Eric Ollerenshaw, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, expressed his delight about a new independent taskforce set up to develop a five year action plan for cancer services that will build on the existing work to improve survival rates and save thousands more lives.: “The new strategy will set a clear direction covering the following areas: prevention; early and faster diagnosis; better treatment and care for all; recovery, re-ablement and living with and beyond cancer; research and innovation; end-of-life care; data and metrics; and work force. “

Mr Ollerenshaw said the taskforce will produce a statement of intent by March this year, with the new strategy published in the summer.

Health minister Jane Ellison concluded the debate, providing ministers with feedback to their comments. This included, in response to calls for a public awareness campaign for pancreatic cancer:  “I have a meeting with Sean Duffy (National Clinical Director for Cancer Services) coming up, and I would be happy to raise that issue with him, along with any other points arising from this debate. It will certainly be on my agenda for discussions with him. I have touched on the matter briefly with him before, but I will pick it up again.”

Ms Ellison referred to comments from MPs about their concerns relating to Abraxane remaining on the CDF: “The CDF panel has decided that further consideration of Abraxane for the treatment of pancreatic cancer is needed, and it will remain on the national CDF list until that has been concluded. I am not yet sure about the timings, but I will undertake to update the all-party group, including the hon. Members for Scunthorpe and my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood, in due course.

Ms Ellison also said that she had a very successful meeting with the Chief Medical Officer who is keen to attend one of the APPG’s on Pancreatic Cancer.  A number of research projects were mention too.

Ms Ellison concluded the debate: “We know that achieving improved outcomes for people with the disease is a huge challenge, but I believe that the change that we all desperately want to see will come. I welcome the new cancer taskforce, which will be leading the way, and I undertake to write to its independent chairman, drawing his attention to this evening’s important debate and the work of the all-party group.”

To read the debate in full, you can visit:  http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm150115/debtext/150115-0004.htm

 

I can stop blaming myself; my pancreatic cancer was just ‘Bad Luck’

Pancreatic cancer is bad luckLast week, a group of researchers at John’s Hopkins University in the USA listed pancreatic cancer as one of those that, in the majority of cases, getting it is just ‘bad luck’.

Published last week in the journal, Science, the researchers looked at the scientific literature for information on the cumulative (increasing) total number of divisions of stem cells in 31 different tissue types over a person’s average lifetime. These results were compared with the lifetime incidence of cancer in the same tissues.

Stem cells were looked at because they will renew themselves and will repopulate cells that die off in a particular organ.

Cancer arises when tissue-specific stem cells make random mistakes, or mutations, when one chemical letter in DNA is incorrectly swapped for another during the replication process in cell division. The more these mutations accumulate, the higher the risk that cells will grow unchecked – a hallmark of cancer.

The scientists calculated that two thirds of cancers are attributable to the random mutations that occur in stem cell divisions throughout a person’s lifetime, while the remaining risk is associated with environmental factors and inherited gene mutations.  And, for organs that have a high stem cell division rate, there was a greater likelihood of developing cancer. (The more often cells divide, the more likely it is that letters of their genetic code will become renewed with a mistake, leading to an increased cancer risk).

 

Cancers due to ‘Bad Luck’

Cancers due to environment + bad luck

Pancreatic Skin cancer
Brain Throat
Head and neck Lung (in smokers)
Thyroid Liver
Oesophageal Bowel
Lung
Bone
Liver
Skin
Ovarian
Testicular

As we see, pancreatic cancer is on the list of ‘bad luck’ cancers , which may help explain why I, at the age of 41, developed pancreatic cancer without any of the associated risk factors for the disease. I know of many other patients who have not been smokers and have led healthy lifestyles and have still developed pancreatic cancer. Sadly, many of them are no longer with us as their disease, unlike mine, was diagnosed at a stage where it was too late.

So, do we ignore the fact that smoking can account for 29% of UK pancreatic cancer cases and obesity, 12%? No we don’t and public health messages are important to help prevent some cancers. If someone can prevent himself or herself from developing cancer by not smoking, that has to be a good thing.

Because this study has shown that two thirds of pancreatic cancer cases are random bad luck, then we need to up the focus on early detection for this disease (the key area that Pancreatic Cancer Action works on) as preventative measures are not going to make much of a difference.

Professor Bert Vogelstein, M.D from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who conducted the study said:

“If two-thirds of cancer incidence across tissues is explained by random DNA mutations that occur when stem cells divide, then changing our lifestyle and habits will be a huge help in preventing certain cancers, but this may not be as effective for a variety of others,”

We should focus more resources on finding ways to detect such cancers at early, curable stages,”

Because of the public perception of pancreatic cancer , a lot of it ill informed or false, there can be a stigma attached to being diagnosed. I would like to request that people now do not ask me: “oh, did you drink a lot, is that why you got pancreatic cancer?” No I didn’t. And, I tell you, there is no direct link with alcohol and pancreatic cancer. I was also not a smoker nor was I obese. It was, it seems, very bad luck that I developed pancreatic cancer but extraordinarily good fortune that I was diagnosed in time for surgery.

 

Ali Stunt

Founder & Chief Executive

Pancreatic Cancer Action

11th January 2015

English patients miss out as NICE Decides NOT to fund Abraxane®

Cannula for ChemotherapyToday, 30th December 2014, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) which makes recommendations on which medicines should be funded by the NHS in England, published its Final Appraisal Determination (FAD) on the use of nab paclitaxel (brand name Abraxane® ) with gemcitabine for metastatic (advanced) pancreatic cancer.

NICE has recommended that Abraxane® should NOT be funded by the NHS in England – on grounds that it is not cost effective.

This, in our opinion, is a backward step by NICE and represents a serious setback for patients and clinicians in England.

The full NICE appraisal and FAD documents can be found here: http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/indevelopment/gid-tag453/documents

Abraxane® (also known as nab-paclitaxel) has been used in combination with gemcitabine within clinical trials and a recent phase III randomised trial showed that nab-pactlitaxel plus gemcitabine was superior to gemcitabine alone.

In December 2013, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) granted a licence for nab-paclitaxel, in combination with gemcitabine, for the first-line treatment of adult patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Currently Abraxane® has been approved for routine use in eligible metastatic pancreatic cancer in the following countries:

Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Finland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and USA. In France, Belgium, Czech Republic and Poland, there are systems in place where access is granted via local Health Technology Assessment (HTA) bodies.

Earlier this year, the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group approved Abraxane® plus gemcitabine for NHS patients in Wales.

Nab-paclitaxel in combination with gemcitabine has not been recommended by NICE for adults with previously untreated metastatic adenocarcinoma of the pancreas and has not been considered a cost effective use of NHS resources compared with treatments such as FOLFIRINOX and gemcitabine plus capecitabine (Gem Cap) for metastatic pancreatic cancer.

We are also concerned that Abraxane® will be dropped from the Cancer Drugs Fund (the only way patients can access it via the NHS in England) as it is one of a group of medicines currently under review by the Fund. A decision will be made in early January.

While the economic modelling criteria NICE uses found that Abraxane® does not prove to be cost-effective, we believe that pancreatic cancer, with its low 3% five-year survival which has not improved in over 40 years, the fact that it is the UK’s fifth biggest cancer killer and that there are very few treatment options available to patients, should be considered as a special case. There is clear unmet need for this disease and NHS funders need to take this fully into account. Abraxane® isn’t that expensive either – according to the manufacturer (Celgene) in their submission to NICE, the cost of average use (3.4 months) per patient is £5,035.

Pancreatic Cancer Action, along with Pancreatic Cancer UK, submitted evidence to NICE to support approval for Abraxane for advanced pancreatic cancer. We challenged the fact that NICE was comparing Abraxane plus gemcitabine against FOLFIRINOX and Gemcitabine plus capecitabine (Gem Cap) as neither of these regimens is approved by NICE. Currently, gemcitabine alone is the only chemotherapy treatment for metastatic pancreatic cancer approved by NICE.

In clinical trials, Abraxane® plus gemcitabine has shown to improve survival by an average of 2 months when compared to gemcitabine alone. This, on the face of it, doesn’t seem a huge improvement, but when the average life expectancy is a mere four to six months, two months more makes a difference to patients and their families. What is interesting from the trial data is that a few patients respond even better with some living up to two years. This accounts for just a handful of patients, but further research we hope will better understand why this treatment is more effective in some patients so therapies can be targeted.

We have also been told by patients and some oncologists that the use of Abraxane® plus gemcitabine offers a truly palliative effect by reducing some of the symptoms of the disease itself such as pain and weight loss.

European pancreatic cancer 1 year survival by country graphThere has been little or no improvement in pancreatic cancer survival for the past 40 years and to prevent access on the NHS in England to a life-extending drug when there are very limited options for pancreatic cancer patients is outrageous and cruel. With Wales being the only country in the UK to allow patients to be treated with Abraxane® plus gemcitabine on the NHS,  patients in other parts of the UK are being put at a disadvantage which is unfair. And, as the UK has some of the lowest pancreatic cancer survival rates in Europe (click on graph to expand), this decision will mean that we will continue to lag behind countries such as Belgium, France and Germany and remain the poor man of Europe in terms of cancer survival.

We urge NICE to reconsider their decision and for Abraxane® not to be axed from the Cancer Drugs Fund. 

Ali Stunt

Founder & CEO (& pancreatic cancer survivor)

Pancreatic Cancer Action

 

The views expressed in this blog are the authors' own.